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Homelessness: what are the solutions?

By Christine Kent

In August 2017, after years of denial, I finally acknowledged my own homelessness. I came out of the closet in the most public way, on the SBS show, Insight.

Since then I have been seriously researching the issue of homelessness. I think I have clarified the problem – what homelessness is, who it effects, the why and how, and particularly in relation to women. I published my thoughts in What you need to know about women’s homelessness: the shocking truth.

But I have not yet managed to identify clear cut solutions. Nor has anyone else.

We need to understand the exact nature of the problem before we can start to look at solutions. But once we do understand the real nature of homelessness, we realise that solutions may not be as simple as they looked at first sight.

For most, the cause of homelessness is structural, not personal, and is related to poverty

Most of the homeless simply do not have enough money to pay rents or mortgages.

You will see child care workers, primary school teachers, secondary school teachers and even TAFE and university teachers amongst the ranks of homeless women. You will see nurses and allied health professionals. You will see all manner of office and clerical support staff, retail workers, restaurant workers. You will even see highly skilled IT and other corporate workers. You will see many who have been sick or disabled, and you will see many who have fled destructive relationships, particularly sole parents with children.

Very few are mentally ill before they become homeless, and very few are sleeping on park benches. Very few are criminals. Very few are professional beggars. They are mostly perfectly ordinary white collar workers or pensioners.

So why are they homeless?

We have inflated house prices

We have rapidly inflating house prices that are forcing those who have housed themselves for their entire lives into homelessness. The rapid rate of house price increase has been caused, at least in part, by:

  • the cultural change from houses as homes to houses as investment, which is supported by much state and federal government policy, and
  • the increasing number of houses dedicated to tourism where they attract much higher returns than they do for permanent rentals.

We have deflated incomes (in real terms)

As house prices have inflated at a rapid rate, fixed incomes have stayed pretty much the same, and working class jobs have diminished:

  • there are less jobs available, leading to greater unemployment, and
  • the purchasing power of working class incomes and welfare benefits for those who cannot find suitable work is too low to pay for housing.

It is pretty much common knowledge that the true unemployment rate is much higher than official government statistics would like us to believe, but there is little agreement on what the true rate is. The Roy Morgan poll estimates 18.9% of the workforce (in April 2017) was unemployed or under-employed and gives their poll statistics to back this up.  And there are just not enough jobs to go round. If there are many more people looking for work than there are jobs available, a certain percentage of the population is doomed to unemployment, and for the less skilled and able, there is a certain number doomed to perpetual unemployment.

Depending on your ideological position, you will hold beliefs about why this is so, and beliefs on how to fix it, but the simple fact is that we are living in a time when it is impossible for many to find work, and when low incomes and welfare benefits are not enough to pay even the most basic rents: where 200,000 households are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

We have escalating levels of poverty

Our challenge is not to build more houses for the poor. It is to fix the structural issues that have led to 3 million Australians – 13.3% of the population living at or below the poverty line. Even the way the poverty line is set, is somewhat dubious, in that it relates to median income. If median income goes down the poverty line goes down. It is currently set at $426.30 a week. If you are earning $427 per week (the age pension plus rent assistance is higher than this) you are not included in the statistic. So let us assume that true poverty is affecting a much higher number of people than reported in the official statistics.

This is honest, decent, hardworking Australians, who cannot afford the basics of food, clothing and shelter.

So what are the solutions?

Either house prices have to come down or incomes have to go up. It is really as simple as that. So which is it to be?

Building houses will not fix the problem

When I started this research I was originally entrapped by the idea of building low cost rental housing as a solution to homelessness. Virtually all other commentators are also fixated on this notion. But building low cost rental housing for 200,000 households is simply not viable and will not actually fix the problem. Even if we could do it, it would just render a greater and greater proportion of the population welfare dependent.

There is enough existing housing for everyone: it’s just not affordable

In Australia there is plenty of housing to go around.  It is just not affordable.  There are:

We are living in an economy where house price inflation provides enough profit for speculative investors, meaning that many do not need to rent their properties. We are living in an economy where anyone who wants to, can place their property, at much higher prices than market rental, onto the tourist market. The housing is still there, it is just not housing Australian residents. It is either empty or housing tourists.

So can we identify how to fix the economy?

This is where we get into the minefield of ideological belief systems, that many hold on to, despite all or any evidence to the contrary.

Dick Smith, Fair Go

Dick Smith has published a comprehensive paper on housing affordability, The Aussie housing affordability crisis: an honest debate. Because he has become associated a move to reduce immigration levels, his ideas on house price inflation have been dismissed by many on ideological grounds, but this paper has little to do with immigration, and everything to do with accessible housing. It can be used as a starting point for debate, and each issue he raises can be addressed on it’s own merits. He has a strong bias in his arguments in favour of home buyers and does not address rental issues. It is a good start, but not the final word.

Also, his solutions are operating within the current neo-liberal framework, and that is not the only approach.

Universal Basic Income & Job Guarantee

There are two populist ideas doing the rounds at the moment, for how to fix endemic poverty, and they go beyond neo-liberalism:

  • Universal Basic Income (UBI) and
  • Job Guarantee.

They are separate beliefs with separate ideologies, but to the outside observer they are approaching the problem of poverty from the same direction.

Both postulate that every citizen has the right to an income that is enough to provide adequate food, clothing and shelter, which is a very good start.

From this point they differ:

  • The UBI does not tie itself to any work or any attempt to work.  It is unconditional.
  • The Job Guarantee guarantees that anyone who want a job has a job. If there is no job for them then a government agency of some description will create that job, and pay the national minimum wage (set to a level that can provide food, clothing and shelter) for that job no matter what it is.

But won’t funding these lead to greater public debt and runaway inflation?

The idea that printing money causes inflation has become accepted wisdom, but is it true? There are growing numbers of economists and monetary experts who are saying it is not true – as long as we are careful.

Firstly, nations that print their own currency do not need to either borrow or tax to raise funds, they just print more currency (or add a 0 to the balance sheet), and Australia has it’s own currency.

We are told that printing money will lead to runaway inflation. According to Modern Monetary Theory, this is not necessarily the case. If I have understood correctly, the advocates of modern monetary theory claim that printing money only leads to inflation if there is not enough productive capacity locally to absorb that money. As many, if not all, of those receiving this income will be living at the poverty line, it is likely that they will spend locally on the basic necessities of life, much of which are locally produced. This will be a boon for local business and is far more likely to boost local economies than lead to runaway inflation.

And won’t giving people free money make them lazy?

There is no evidence whatsoever that adequate welfare of any kind causes people to leave the work economy. In fact, what evidence there is, shows the opposite – that a reduction in poverty increases the chances of employment.

So should we try it?

I cannot comment on whether these ideas are right, only that there are limited trials going on in FinlandScotland and Canada. Other countries are seriously discussing the option of a universal basic income. If some nations are taking at least the UBI seriously, why not Australia too? It has been suggested by The Greens, but their proposal has been almost universally ridiculed and there is little intelligent debate as to if or how their policy could be improved. Why? Why can we not discuss it?

It may be that the UBI is a less effective option than the Job Guarantee but without discussion we will never know. It may be that both UBI and Job Guarantee are nonsense, but without discussion, and some form of trialing, how will we ever know?

And in the meantime, how do we house the homeless?

If the conversation moves away from building houses to fixing the economy, what happens to the currently 200,000 households that are housing stressed or homeless, languishing on the public housing waiting lists? They have to be housed – somehow.

We do need some permanent housing added to the national estate – to house 50,000

Public and community housing, where rentals are set at 35% of income, cannot be expected to provide housing for the entire 200,000 struggling households. But it can be expected to provide housing for an additional 50,000.

According to the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI), the national estate of this kind of housing has been reducing over many years, while the population has been growing, so public and community housing is not keeping pace with the existing need of it’s traditional demographic.

“If the proportion of households in social housing (4.8% in 2006) had been maintained through to 2016 (when 4.3% of all households lived in social housing) then an extra 49,302 households would have been living in social housing.” (AHURI)

We need to build more suitable public housing, with security of tenure, to bring the ratio of public housing to private housing back to it’s earlier and more optimum levels. This alone might require as much as 50,000 new residences, and would be a massive building or acquisition commitment in it’s own right, but for which there is currently no political will.

In the interim we need a crisis response

For now, while we wait for sensible action to be taken by federal and state governments, we have 200,000 households living in fear. We need a crisis response to get the currently homeless safely housed, while we are waiting for additional housing to be acquired and for the economy to be re-adjusted.

Where is the conversation about a crisis response?  Where is the action?

Frankly, how we can achieve this I do not know. Perhaps:

  • we can force the 300,000 empty houses back onto the market
  • we can force some of the housing dedicated to the tourist industry back onto the market
  • there are government policy areas that can set off immediate impacts on the housing market such as reviewing the Capital Gains Tax exemption on the family-home, or negative gearing
  • the army can construct pop-up accommodation on government land to immediately house those in personal danger.

I have no idea what the pros and cons of any or all of the actions above would be.  But I do know that we can no longer continue to do nothing.

We must start addressing homelessness as a structural issue, and do something to rescue and protect the innocent victims of the economic imbalance that has caused their housing stress: the 200,000 households currently homeless or at risk of homelessness need help, and now!

This article was originally published on Housing Alternatives (for women).


25 comments

  1. Florence nee Fedup

    This government loves living in the past. Why don’t they bring back the poor house, being poor a crime & master & servant laws.

  2. Gavin

    Great analysis Christine, if only MSM were one tenth as honest in their appraisal of the reasons for homelessness. Besides the points you mention, one part of any solution might involve a National Integrity Commission creating a website that lists all investments (shares and investment properties) held by politicians, senior bureaucrats (eg ATO, APRA, ASIC) and prominent mainstream commentators (eg news readers, journalists, current affair hosts). The general public would have access to this page and would see where conflict of interest issues are evident in relation to public policy rationale. I think something along these lines already exists in Norway.

  3. flohri1754

    Well presented column … an increasingly concerning area of society both in Australia and other countries that has to be addressed IF such societies can assure they have a future.

    Like you, I know I have no obvious solutions in mind that are realistic. But the whole area has to be addressed and monitored and hopefully improved else we all suffer. Some more than others but we all suffer.

  4. Simon

    The housing crisis has been caused by banks funding the ponzi scheme that housing has become. It used to be the case that 70% of real estate loans were to commercial and industrial the balance to residential, this ratio has been reversed. The housing ponzi has also been promoted by the Neo Libs on both sides of parliament as having a generation of real estate rich baby boomers who think they are astute business people ensures support for the Neo Lib agenda.

  5. etnorb

    One way to try & alleviate homelessness would be IF this inept, lying bloody liberal mob were to abandon any talk or action about giving huge tax cuts to large corporations etc, & instead gave what these “big boys” of business would have got, to more housing, more monetary assistance to organisations trying to help homeless people & in general being more “pro-active” in trying to assist all these unfortunate people here in Australia. NO bloody “tax cuts” (?) to ANY big business, large corporations or mining barons etc, EVER!!

  6. New England Cocky

    An excellent objective coverage of an allegedly difficult problem that in reality is easily solved.

    The ALP proposal to grandfather Capital Gains Tax benefits on second hand housing and restrict future GST benefits to new housing is one excellent step.

    Then remove the NSW misgovernment incentive to northern Asian investors of assistance for Australian citizenship in return for investment in the Sydney housing bubble.

    Remove tax minimisation benefits from housing so that the high income earners pay their fair share of taxation to support the peaceful community in which they succeed.

    The Universal Basic Income (UBI) was trialled in Canada for about five years with the results showing that decreased use of medical services actually saved more than the cost of the UBI. The Harper Conservative government stopped the project upon election to office. The final analysis is given in:

    Rutger Bergman, “Utopia for Realists and how we can get there”, (2017), Bloomsbury, London, ISBN 978-1-4088-9027-1, pb, $21.99.

  7. Kronomex

    It also doesn’t help when you see the Rupert Sleaze Media printing articles about things like –

    http://www.news.com.au/finance/real-estate/buying/dont-buy-into-housing-bubble-bullst-says-property-tycoon-nathan-birch/news-story/96a221df4fb5910b0b0118f5ac7a20f6

    He’s not a “tycoon” on my book, he’s just incredibly greedy. This type of crap shows up regularly in the RSM as if everybody in the country can own houses by the dozens. Governments, both state and federal, make a lot of noise about the homeless and do nothing and will continue to do nothing.

    Then you read articles like this –

    https://www.theguardian.com/housing-network/2017/mar/22/finland-solved-homelessness-eu-crisis-housing-first

    They’ve managed to bring homelessness down by 33% so far in England over the same period of time theirs has increased by something like 137%.

    Here, it’s all about money, money, money…ad nauseam, and nothing should be allowed to get in the way of that.

  8. Aichsv

    An excellent article Christine, very refreshing. Gavin, your suggestion is also relevant to this area but unfortunately those affected by this poverty are unlikely to be able to access this list of Leaners and those other of us can only but Vote to see if more justice and equality can be achieved.

  9. stephengb2014

    Christine,
    Congratulations on a clearly ariculated and objective article. You have in my view identified not only, the issue of homelessness, but also the issue facing virtually every country who’s economy is based upon the so called ‘free market’.
    Inequality is the primary cause of homelessness and poverty full stop. But what is the cause of inequality? I would postulate that the single cause is, ‘the free market’ (now referred to as “The Neoliberal Agenda’.)

    First – at the end of WWII the allies in particular, adopted the New Deal (USA), nationalisation and socialism, (UK) other commonwealth countries followed suit. Second these same countries and many others signaturised the numerous agreements to protect and benefit world order, in particular the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (See article 25(1). What followed was the “Golden Age” 1945 to mid 1970, where incomes were adequate to meet article 25, where consumption was adequate to generate business and jobs, in short a “Golden Age”, full employment decent wages, and almost zero homelessness. (no it was not perfect but it was getting there!)
    Then in 1970s greed became the issue (both greed of the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’). By 1980 we saw the ugly head of of greed develop into the so called “Free Market” and current Neoliberal Agenda. The Neoliberal Agenda seeks to destroy these two and impose a society similar to if not more regressive than that of the Dickinson era, where the obscene wealth of the ‘haves’ was in stark contrast to the abject poverty of the ‘have nots’.

    In addition I congratulate you in identifying the solution (even though you deny doing so) its the government policy, or more to the point it’s the governments policies in relation to the economy and how it is distributed.

    I will not say that the fix is adopting MMT (Modern Money Theory) because MMT is not something to adopt although the Job Garrentee (JG) is favoured by many MMT guru’s as a fix for current economic realities. And I will not say that Universal Basic Income (UBI) will fix our inequality, however I believe there is a place for either, or or both of these two mechanisms. And neither will I say that we must implement MMT. Because the reality Is that MMT is already the implemented, it is the reality Is in regard to a sovereign currency nation that creates its own currency by decree (fiat currency) that taxes it’s society only in a currency that the nation creates, and floats it’s currency on the money market.

    What MMT does is allow people to see that their economic condition is entirely governed by government policy, that the condition that we find ourselves, does have to be the condition that we have to accept as punishment or reward, in short MMT let’s us realise that there is no reason why we cannot have a just and equitable society.

    There is no shortage of money to provide sufficient housing solutions for ALL, wether the government compulsary buys the 30,000 homes not occupied, or builds 200,00 dwellings for the 200,000 homeless, or gives them all a UBI, or gives everyone a JG. A sovereign currency issuing nation can create as much m9ney as it needs full stop (yes there are constraints that must be mitigated but they are not insurmountable).

    The solution is GOVERNMENT POLICY.

  10. DuncanM

    Levy land tax through local government inversely rebated by resident means test, apply revenue generated to local social investment programs.
    Would be a direct investment by all wealth generators in richer society that all benefit from, directly or indirectly.

  11. Christine

    Thanks all for these positive contributions – they are triggering the next article.

    My next article will be the CBA and SCBA of providing housing, in other words. it saves money rather than costs money to provide housing. This is going to take a bit of research, so if you know of really good resources (that go beyond a mere Google search that I can do myself) I would love to hear of them.

    Also, if anyone knows of MMT being applied to single projects (without Job Guarantee or UBI) I would like to hear of them too. I hear people saying that you don’t have to implement MMT. but yes you most certainly do. Someone has to add the zeros to some balance sheet or other, and decide what that fantasy money is going to be spent on.

    My idea is to speculate on what would happen if we created a National Housing Authority with the mandate to provide 50,000 affordable (35% of income) rental houses around Australia. If each home could be built and equipped for an average of $100,000 a piece (yes it is possible with modern building techniques and free land), then the NHA would need an overdraft of $5,000,000,000 (5 billion) just for the cost of housing, plus whatever else it takes to run it. It would then call for submissions for building villages in regional areas that fulfill established economic, financial, social, and environmentally sustainable criteria, existing social housing maintenance and management criteria, and local content requirements. Once compliant plans are submitted they are fully funded. The submitting body manages the building, maintenance and tenancy of the properties according to existing social housing criteria.

    Once implemented, measures are established to estimate the social, economic and environmental costs and benefits to the communities of people living in these villages and to the regional centres that supply the goods and services to these villages. There are a few Cost Benefit Analyses around that show a net positive return to the provision of social housing, so if it can be shown that the 5+ billion is returned and hopefully multiplied, then the same process can be used for other social interventions that are infrastructure based.

    Pie in the sky? Maybe. But wouldn’t it be exciting? Do politicians have any red blood in their veins or have they all degenerated to green sludge? It feels like a long time since we have been able to be excited and optimistic about something, and I, for one, need to get that feeling back.

  12. Sabine Beate Wienand

    Well written Christine thank you 🙂

  13. diannaart

    A first step can be established immediately by the government – it would solve many housing issues and will actually save money in the long term as, anyone who has experienced long term stress due to unemployment or homelessness, can attest a persons’ health goes first, therefore costing more on our health system and creating more permanently unemployable people.

    This first step, irrespective of MMT, UBI or a job guarantee (which are worthwhile debates to have instead of doing nothing but mocking the Greens), is to simply set a a liveable, in line with inflation, income both for low income workers, pensioners and the unemployed. Give people at the lowest rung a fair go.

    Wages for the majority of workers have stagnated – yet profits remain high and the top 10% of workers continue to thrive.

    Employers have not had to pay workers in line with inflation for over 20 years – so where is the money?

    On top of cheap labour, short term contracts, job insecurity – be it from waiting tables or through to white collar work – basic penalty rates have been cut and multinationals are being granted tax cuts.

    Where is the money for this?

    Tied up in schemes designed to keep any profits within the top 10th percentile.

  14. Alison

    Great article Christine.

  15. PK1765

    I suggest you link in with & read Professor Bill Mitchell’s blog, search for & read Professor Stephanie Kelton (Bernie Sanders adviser, who ha also been speaking with Jeremy Corbyn) as well as Professor Randal L Wray & Professor Pavlina Tcherneva

    I am going to post a comment by John Kelly a regular contributor to here…

    If we want greater equality then it must come in the form of more a equitable distribution of national income. But if that national income is compromised by fewer people working, then the whole process is counter productive. (That is unflation will become a problem… more money in the economy doesn’t cause inflation BUT the lack of real resources, goods, products & services on which to spend that money is the cause of inflation…. hence why economist of standing do not recommend a UBI Professor Bill Mitchell Printing money does not cause inflation http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/?p=13834)

    The only way to ensure a more equitable distribution of the national income is to
    1) provide full employment.
    2) ensure levels of production meet demand, and
    3) contain inflation.

    A UBI will not provide full employment, or ensure levels of production meet demand.

    A job guarantee will achieve both 1 and 2, thus avoiding 3.

    From my understanding and reading various economists, a Job Guarantee does not participate in the for profit sector NOR is it restricted or even targeted towards local council or Government type jobs but rather is in addition to these and includes those jobs many are involved in that currently are undervalued and unpaid… thus those that are currently voluntary, like SES, CFA, many community ventures… radio, television, activism, environmental & landcare, as well as things like caring and parenting… BUT also people would be paid a wage to undertake further study, to pursue creative pursuits like acting, musical careers etc…

    Prof Stephanie Kelton Why and how deficit spending can be, and usually is, a good thing.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OHhfpCWxuXQ

    Job Guarantee vs Stand-Alone Universal Basic Income: with Pavlina Tcherneva
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEyb5A7GNzg
    Pavlina Tcherneva’s written description of a plan for a Job Guarantee in the USA.
    http://www.levyinstitute.org/pubs/wp_902.pdf

    Economics for Sustainable Prosperity,
    Hail, Steven (Dr Hail runs a page on facebook called Green Modern Monetary Theory and Practice
    https://www.palgrave.com/gp/book/9783319909806

    Dr Steven Hail… Job Guarantee Program…
    https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1579373108812493&id=673798776036602

  16. Vikingduk

    A little late, Christine, several years ago whilst in Berlin, we met a developer whose main whinge was the government requirement that a third of the apartments were for low income people, with the rent set and controlled by the government (including any future rises), next third for middle income earners with, I think, the same constraints and the final third allowing the developer to charge like a wounded bull.

    Whether this is still the case, I don’t know, and whether it is a possible solution/assistance to homelessness I don’t know. But certainly constrained the developers’ greed.

    Certainly a shameful state of affairs and should not be in this or any of the richer nations. Tho we are becoming quite proficient at shameful, morally bankrupt politics.

  17. diannaart

    Vikingduk

    Set rents is a common and accepted practice in Germany and other parts of Europe.

    I think the scheme you describes sounds excellent and similar has been tried in Australia – but not with much political support.

    I used to work in public housing in Australia, I am aware of the outrage from wealthy and middle income people when we tried to create mixed housing – affordable mixed in with private rental. There were claims that the low income tenants would trash the joint and (horror of horrors) reduce the market value of properties.

    Properly managed this housing scheme proved outraged citizens wrong.

    If public tenants are properly vetted, have a good support network of social workers and property standards were maintained, no one could really pick the “upper class” from the less fortunate – although skin colour and accents could give the game away.

    However, in the 1990’s maintenance was reduced to ‘minimum’ (crap) standards – which meant many properties were not given sufficient maintenance to retain standards and some properties were sold off to the private market because they would cost too much to maintain, meaning they were no longer affordable to low income …

    … and now, in the 21st C, no longer affordable for middle income groups as well.

    This is how brilliantly neo-libertarian laissez-faire capitalism works – if you are already wealthy.

  18. Vikingduk

    Thanks Diannart for update, as far as we could tell (one of our sons was working in Berlin at the time) the only people whinging were the developers. I assume that this being such a common practice that the trashing of housing wasn’t common given the government’s will to mandate this policy.

    Also the recycling of glass and plastic and the money claimed back seemed to be an excellent way for those lacking funds to at least feed themselves, with all supermarkets offering a means to return empties and either claim cash or deduct from grocery bill. Quite common for people to not bin the empties but leave them in a visible position to be picked up by those in need, with an advertising campaign to encourage this practice.

    Certainly no slum lords deliberately running down properties with a compliant media to force people out, though developers were known to attract artists, etc., to change the tone of a derelict building to make it and the area cool and groovy whilst waiting for development consent and development funds.

    Either those in power care and attempt to help those in need or do what we do and demonise. Such is life in this Neo liberal horror show.

  19. diannaart

    Thanks for your reply.

    I have watched as Australia created the very conditions for increased homelessness; argued, written, protested and generally made a nuisance of myself regarding the stagnation of public housing development, the out-sourcing of maintenance and other services which used to be performed by an experienced range of full-time permanent people. Then watched as contractors were hired at more expense! The B/S ideas that were so obviously in favour of developers I could not believe anyone would take it seriously. I saw the beginning of the rejection of knowledge, experience and simple good sense.

    Don’t get me started on recycling. Grrrr.

    Good, the Chinese no longer want our stinky rubbish, a belated start to true recycling is better than anything we have done thus far.

  20. Kyran

    Perhaps if we look at it from ‘the government’s perspective, we will get a better insight. As you have pointed out in this and your earlier article, there are many intersecting ‘social’ aspects, not all of which are housing related. Trying to address all of them comprehensively will consume much time and effort but will be, ultimately, defeated by the government’s agenda.
    Successive governments have been privatizing the public housing sector for decades. Post WW2, there were many and varied public housing schemes (globally) with attendant ‘support services’ (run in Australia across all levels of government, federal, state and local). Most of these schemes were wound back, as were the support services. A really good (albeit dated) paper was produced comparing housing models from various countries in the wake of deconstructing systems that had been in place, and working relatively well, post WW2.

    http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/rp/RP9798/98rp06

    The ‘Analysis & Policy Observatory’ has several papers you may be interested in with regard to various aspects of homelessness and ways to address them.

    http://apo.org.au/

    But this is looking at it from a social policy perspective. The reality is that the government has been looking at the commodification of government services to enable their privatisation. The NSW government is pursuing this with some enthusiasm and the lead ‘candidate’ for privatising the social housing quandary is none other than Serco.

    http://www.facs.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/317090/Serco-Australia.pdf

    Well, they already do prisons and call centres for the government. What could go wrong, right? This is merely one of many issues where rational minds seek to identify the problem and define a solution. The original model, after WW2, had some flaws, but it was comprehensive in addressing the supply of ‘public’ or ‘social’ housing and the regeneration of housing stocks in different areas.
    The 70-80’s saw the dismantling of that under what is referred to as the Reagan/Thatcher doctrines. Ever since then, it seems we see this as a social problem and our governments see it as a budgetary problem. Governments have largely removed themselves from the supply side of housing and reduced their involvement to providing cash supplements to benefits, leaving the recipient with the problem of trying to find a roof (or any other support services) from their meagre allowance. It is a system designed to fail as a social policy, but designed to succeed as a way of shifting government money to the provider (invariably a private company) and blaming the recipient for the deficiency.
    The Finnish model is a good one, as is the way they dealt with addressing their version of the NBN.
    Was it Thatcher who said ‘there is no such thing as society’? The Finn’s tend to practice that there is no other thing than society.
    There was a recent article about boats and rising tides (Ms Lee?) which epitomised the conservative regime. This article is stating the obvious. Why worry about the seaworthiness of a vessel when all you have are floaties?
    The models of public and social housing are well detailed, as are the support services required. The economic savings are beyond any reasonable dispute, having been so for decades.
    As so many of the comments illustrate, the social problem is well known and there have been many solutions that have been working.
    The real problem right now is that the government’s agenda has no intention of acknowledging the social problem, concerning itself only with the reallocation of funds to the private sector. It worked so well when the CES was swapped for the ‘Job Network’, didn’t it?
    Thankyou Ms Kent and commenters. Take care

  21. Christine

    Kyran, thankyou for this. I agree with everything you say. I guess the reason I am still trying to clarify all this and still trying to find ways of articulating it clearly, is that I am not sure the majority of our population DO understand, and if they did understand, I doubt would want this to be happening. The only way we will get control of our governments back is if we reverse the deliberate dumbing down of our population to the point where they can only believe because they can no longer think. True believers have to choose a side because the logic of policy positions is just too much for them to think through and so they don’t. Politics has become a popularity contest, and all the players know they do not need decent policies any more, they just need the most charismatic leader who tells the most attractive lies. Only we can turn this around, and if we don’t…

  22. helvityni

    “The tragedy is that it’s entirely within our power to do something about it: homelessness is not a choice made by the individual, it is a reality forced by government policy. As homelessness has rocketed in the UK – up 134% since 2010 – it has fallen by 35% in Finland over a similar period of time. The Finnish government is now aiming to abolish it altogether in the coming years.

    I recently travelled to Finland to understand how it had done this. It turns out its solution is painfully simple and blindingly obvious: give homes to homeless people. As Juha Kaakinen, who has led much of the work on “housing first” in Finland, explained to me when I met him in Helsinki, “this takes housing as a basic human right” rather than being conditional on engaging in services for addictions or mental health”.

    Harry Quilter-Pinner ( British journalist)

  23. Christine

    …and he is talking about England which has an enormous percentage of its population in social housing compared to Australia.

    “4.4 per cent of Australian households live in social housing, compared to 18.2 per cent in the UK. How do we know if we have the right level of social housing?”

    https://www.ahuri.edu.au/policy/ahuri-briefs/what-is-the-right-level-of-social-housing

    However, he does seem to be only talking about the 6% of the homeless who are rough sleeping, with the attendant need for additional support, so maybe England has succeeded in housing everyone else. We have to be careful about looking to current English policies for housing the homeless because their percentage of social housing is already so high compared to us. If we had 18.2 percent we would have more than housed our entire homeless and “at risk” population.

  24. Kyran

    The speech recently given by Mr Flanagan was interesting in so many ways, being a clear, articulate definition of ‘public good’ aspirations and governments (globally) pursuing an authoritarian prescriptive agenda designed to benefit the few. I’m in the Flanagan camp, the situation is desperate but not hopeless. One of the myths (IMO) frequently circulated is that the ‘public’ are either stupid or apathetic, which means that these policies are being rolled out seemingly without objection.
    Communities, locally, do so much on a daily basis that show they are engaged and are both willing and able to make a change. The increasing indifference (or deafness) by government on most levels is merely hastening their pursuit of irrelevance.
    Just as one, tiny, tintsy wintsy example, Mr Taylor recently asked for assistance in funding. As that post reads, many visitors to this site not only contributed financially but expressed support for this forum.
    As another example, there were protests just a few days ago by unionists in Melbourne, which were largely unreported by the media.

    https://www.msn.com/en-au/video/sport/change-the-rules-rally-melbourne/vp-AAvY4G6

    It will be interesting to see how well the upcoming union demonstrations will be attended and reported.

    https://www.australianunions.org.au/12_days_of_action

    There were protests on Palm Sunday about our refugee’s, which were also unreported, but attended by thousands nationally.
    There are currently hundreds of thousands of recipients of ‘government benefits’, all of whom have to deal with increasing costs, notwithstanding that their ‘income’ has not increased for years. These are often people who have neither the interest or inclination to follow the travails of ‘our leaders’, the likes of Joyce, Dutton, Turnbull, Morrison, etc, so are described as politically ignorant and therefore apathetic.
    Our media engineers, modifies, massages or spins the news, as if it has some bearing on some poor bastard trying to work out if they can or should spend their last $20 on food or electricity, or if their unroadworthy car may suffice as temporary accommodation.
    In a bleak sort of way, it is heartening to note that political party membership and support is decreasing at a rapid rate (down more than 50% over the past five or so years), whilst the likes of Change.org and GetUp have increasing support (financially and intellectually) on a daily basis.
    It is thanks to people such as yourself that the important issues are kept ‘on the agenda’ and that the problems are clearly defined, with solutions that are achievable, even if it’s a return to policies that were working when discarded.
    If politicians insist on rendering themselves irrelevant and the media becomes increasingly shrill in support of that premise, so be it. It’s a tad unfair to say that that is the fault of those affected by their irrelevance.
    Thanks again, Ms Kent. Take care

    PS I just noticed helvityni’s comment which encapsulates the attitudinal approach required; “this takes housing as a basic human right”.

    PPS With regard to the English scenario, they have been changing their model from provision of housing to provision of financial subsidy over the course of a few decades. Part of the difficulty in your quest is the vigilance required in comparing apples with apples.

  25. diannaart

    Indeed, Kyran

    I thought Vikingduk’s comment from his direct experience in Berlin a most succinct comment:

    Certainly a shameful state of affairs and should not be in this or any of the richer nations.

    Australia claims to be wealthy yet has a cold heart.

    Juha Kaakinen’s comment, as repeated by Harry Quilter-Pinner, housing is as basic a human right as is breathing clean air, access to clean water and food and the means to obtain them.

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